Crave Nasi Lemak is by now a familiar sight to many Singaporeans.
A spin-off from the famous Selera Rasa nasi lemak, Crave is the result of a partnership to introduce one family’s recipe to Singapore.
With their winning combination of fluffy rice, fried chicken, and sambal, their rich aromas permeate the air in many neighbourhoods and CBD malls.
But here’s one thing you might not have known about it – it has Japanese ingredients as well.
A Family Story
Abdul Malik’s father, Hassan Abdul Kadir, used to sell French loaves when his mother decided to add nasi lemak to the inventory.
A woman of Japanese-Malay parentage, her sambal recipe included Japanese ingredients. The unique blend drew fans amongst his colleagues and eventually, the Sultan of Brunei.
A compliment from him sparked the idea of a business in Hassan.
“Nobody knew us, so it took almost three years to develop our name,” he recalled.
But win over fans they did, and Selera Rasa at Adam Road became a household name – a name Hassan wanted to pass down to his family, starting with his eldest son Abdul Malik.
The idea did not sit well with Abdul Malik, who had worked his entire life to become a pilot.
In order to help his family make ends meet, Abdul Malik sold goreng pisang as a kid, served as a banquet waiter and Zouk bartender as a teen, and worked full-time while studying part-time.
Only at 33 did he obtain his Mechanical Engineering degree from NTU, after which he immediately applied to Singapore Airlines.
The news greatly upset his father, Abdul Malik recalls, as his father told him “if you go and pilot aeroplanes, who is going to pilot my stall?”
“I just wanted to become a pilot,” Abdul Malik told Straits Times, revealing he never had plans to take over Selera Rasa.
After everything he had sacrificed and years of being burdened by responsibilities, Abdul Malik was only filled with resentment.
“I worked so hard for a degree, put in so many nights of night school and now you want me to sell nasi lemak?”
It took him a week to decide, but he eventually acceded to his father’s request.
But, only if he was allowed to run Selera Rasa carte blanche.
“No problem. You now run the show,” his father had said.
“You do what you think is right and at the end of the month, you pay me what you think I should get.”
A Family Flight
If Selera Rasa was popular before, it truly took off with Adbul Malik at the cockpit.
He revamped operations and improved recipes, and even managed to convince his 4 other siblings to join him full-time.
Selera Rasa also started winning multiple awards from Makansutra and The Straits Times Readers’ Choice award.
The latter gave their business a huge boost, and the shock he felt when they opened the shutters to a long queue remains fresh in his mind.
Today, the nasi lemak business is run by 14 family members, and their combined salary is about $400,000.
But aside from monetary rewards, the Selera Rasa brand has also carved out their own significant milestones with notable figures.
Their nasi lemak is a must-have breakfast for the Sultan of Brunei.
In addition, it also took the spotlight at a breakfast meal shared by PM Lee Hsien Loong, the Indonesian President Joko Widodo and their wives in 2011.
It was also family who encouraged Abdul Malik to go big.
When he joined, his youngest brother told him that Adam Road was not enough.
“I want you to expand so that the whole of Singapore knows about Selera Rasa,” his brother had said. “So I promised him I would do that.”
By 2007, Selera Rasa already had outlet #2. However, it was only after loyal customer and Pezzo Pizza co-founder approached them that they truly begin expanding.
Pezzo Pizza pumped in $500,000 to build them a central kitchen and open multiple outlets.
“They take care of the outlets, we take care of the kitchen and food quality,” Abdul Malik reveals of their equal partnership.
“This is perfect because I have never liked the idea of franchising our brand. You cannot control the quality.”
CRAVE quickly broke into Hougang, Bedok and Punggol, but its space at ION Orchard marked a milestone for the family.
It was their first venture into the CBD.
Today, CRAVE by Selera Rasa has 12 outlets.
“When I took over, I helped change my family’s mentality – we were not just hawkers, we were a company,” Abdul Malik told Citizens of Singapore.
“Now we are a private limited company, [and] we own our own brand with plans for expansion.”
Reflections Of Nasi Lemak
Before he passed away, his father’s dying wish was to have all his siblings join the business. Abdul Malik has more than accomplished that.
“Before, I only saw [them] once or twice a month. Now I see them every day,” he mused.
“Sure we bicker, but we have also become so much closer as a family. My father was a very wise man.”
“Whatever you do, do it with passion and from the heart. Do not always think that you are right – listen to other people and their ideas. Analyse or use them but you must always take responsibility for the outcomes, whether you are right or wrong.”
Featured Image Credit: jacqsowhat